New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday protected four members of the Editors Guild of India against any coercive action till Monday in connection with two FIRs lodged against them in the state for offences, including promoting enmity between two communities.
A bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra also sought response of the state government on the plea filed by the Editors Guild and fixed the matter on September 11.
Although the petition was not listed today, CJI Chandrachud agreed to take up the matter after it was mentioned by Senior Advocate Shyam Divan for urgent hearing. Divan said that two FIRs have been registered against the members of the fact finding team alleging that their report "promoted enmity".
The bench was initially inclined to dispose of the writ petition by granting a limited protection so that the petitioners can approach the High Court. However, Divan said that none other than the Chief Minister himself made allegations against the EGI in a press conference and went to the extent of saying that "EGI has stoked provocative statements". He highlighted that the Chief Minister's statement was an additional aspect which should be considered by the Court.
Following this, the bench agreed to issue notice on the petition and grant interim protection.
On September 4, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh had said that a police case has been filed on the basis of a complaint against the president and three members of the Editors Guild of India and accused them of trying to "provoke clashes" in the state.
A second FIR was also registered against the four members of the Guild, with additional charge of defamation.
The Guild’s 24-page findings were released on September 2. The fact-finding team was sent to Manipur to examine the media reportage in the state from August 7 to 10.
The Guild had slammed the internet ban in the state as being detrimental to media reportage, criticised what it termed as one-sided reporting by some media outlets and claimed there were indications that the state leadership "had turned partisan" during the conflict period.
The FIRs are based on complaints describing the report as “ false, fabricated and sponsored”.
(With PTI, Live Law inputs.)